Mason Rudolph deserves more Heisman love after record-setting performance

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Mason Rudolph (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Mason Rudolph (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph has been overshadowed in Oklahoma, but the Cowboys quarterback is a legit Heisman Trophy candidate.

Baker Mayfield led the Oklahoma Sooners to a 31-16 victory over Ohio State in prime time last Saturday, and he made headlines for attempting to plant an OU flag at midfield in Ohio Stadium in celebration. Mayfield was brilliant against the Buckeyes, and after throwing for 715 yards and six touchdowns without an interception over the first two weeks of the season deservedly put himself among the top Heisman Trophy candidates in college football. However, as good as Mayfield has been, he might not be the best quarterback in his own state.

Oklahoma State signal-caller Mason Rudolph, who has been largely underrated in his first three years with the Cowboys in large part because of Mayfield’s star status, deserves a place alongside Mayfield and reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson in the conversation to be considered college football’s top player. Rudolph proved it with a record-setting first-half performance against Pitt at Heinz Field Saturday.

Rudolph completed 20-of-28 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns before halftime against the Panthers, setting a new school record for passing yards in a half and doing it with familiar explosiveness. His first TD was a 54-yarder to Dillon Stoner, which capped a 96-yard drive and pushed the Oklahoma State lead to 14-0. He later connected with Marcell Ateman for a 69-yard score and added three TD passes – of eight, 40 and 48 yards – to Jalen McCleskey before halftime.

Rudolph obviously did an outstanding job spreading the ball around. As ESPN’s Jake Trotter pointed out early in the third quarter, the Cowboys set a school record for 100-yard receivers in a single game. Ateman, McCleskey, Stoner and superstar wideout James Washington all surpassed the century mark, doing so before garbage time kicked in. No Oklahoma State team had ever produced more than two 100-yard receivers in a single game before the quartet turned the trick against the Panthers.

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Combined with his performance over the first two weeks of the season, in which Oklahoma State blew out Tulsa 59-24 and followed with a 44-7 win on the road against South Alabama, Rudolph completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 1,061 yards and 11 touchdowns without an interception through the first 10 quarters of play of his senior season.

Rudolph was picked off for the first time early in the third quarter, but by that point, his Cowboys had built a commanding lead over a quality non-conference opponent. After the Oklahoma State defense scored on an interception return to make the score 56-14, Rudolph was removed from the game to give backup Taylor Cornelius reps. Rudolph finished the day 23-for-32 with 497 passing yards, five touchdowns and an interception.

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Most importantly, he put the Cowboys in position to move to 3-0 in non-conference play ahead of next week’s Top 25 clash with TCU in the Big 12 opener. And, if all goes according to plan in the six weeks to follow, Rudolph and the Cowboys will host Mayfield’s Sooners in a Top 10 battle in November. By that time, Rudolph will hopefully have gotten his due.